I am super excited to be a part of the YA Shot Blog Tour and thanks to the lovely author and YA Shot organiser Alexia Casale I have been paired up with the wonderful and super lovely Natasha Farrant!
“YA Shot is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade ‘festival’ taking place in the centre of Uxbridge on Wednesday 28 October 2015 in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. 71 authors will be involved in a programme of workshop, panel and ‘in conversation’ events (plus book-signing sessions) in the Uxbridge Civic Centre, Waterstone’s Uxbridge and Uxbridge Library. There is also a programme of 6 fantastic blogging and vlogging workshops. YA Shot is part of the ‘Culture Shot’ (now called ‘Culture Bite’) programme of events that the Libraries are organising across the Borough in October 2015.”
You can find out more about YA Shot by visiting the website www.yashot.co.uk
To buy tickets for this fab event click here
So today I have a fab Q&A with Natasha!
Join us to chat about writing, inspiration and eating books!
Hi Natasha! Welcome to Tale Of Yesterday! I am over the moon to have you here! I cannot wait to hear the answers to my questions!
Let’s start with your YA historical novel. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for The Things We Did For Love?
It’s based on a village near where my parents live in South West France, which was completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1944, ten days after D-Day. The village has been left exactly as it was when the Germans left, and it is so full of ghosts you could almost touch them. I first visited it with my children when they were very small. They had no understanding of why the houses were burned and roofless, or why there were rusting cars abandoned in fields. They just played, as children do, running in and out of ruins, and as I watched them I thought that once it was normal for children to play here, and the ghosts of the villagers seemed to agree. Inside the ruined church, I cried a little, as everybody does, and said a prayer. Then, being a writer, I thought “I want to write about this”. The Things We Did for Love is the result. I’ve made up characters, a love story, a relationship between a brother and sister, a soldier looking for redemption – but essentially it’s the story of how terrible things can happen even when people are good, and how good things can happen even when circumstances are terrible.
I’ve recently started reading the Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series – can you tell us a little more about the series?
It’s a series about a big, chaotic, slightly mad family, told from the point of view Bluebell, the only “normal” sibling, as she records their lives in her diaries. The first book, After Iris, opens three years after the death of the Bluebell’s twin, when the family are falling apart but rescued by a male East European nanny with a tragic past of his own. In the second book, Flora in Love, all the children fall in love one way or another, and in the third book, All About Pumpkin, they come to the rescue of their ageing grandmother. The books are funny and sad and full of shouting and drama and love. They’re for younger readers than The Things We Did for Love, really for girls between 9 and 13, but teenagers seem to love them too!
Someone recently described All About Pumpkin as “like Bake-Off in book form”, which is just perfect (though I hope it’s a tiny bit more thought-provoking).
Can you tell us a little about the main character Bluebell?
Blue was inspired by my daughter when she was about twelve. She was very ill, and having trouble at school, and the loneliness of growing up trying to deal with all that came together in my mind to form a character who was a little apart, very good at noticing the things that other people miss, desperate to get on with life but not sure how to do it. Blue is also learning to live without her twin, which I only realised after I had finished is a sort of metaphor for her childhood – the part she has to leave behind in order to move forward. It’s not a bad way of thinking of anorexia.
How important are names to you? Did you pick any of the characters names in the Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series for a reason?
Names are crucial for characters to come to life. Imagine if Holly Golightly was called, I don’t know – Enid Smith. The Gadsby children all have flower names (or in the case of Pumpkin, a vegetable name…). It’s a way of signalling they are all part a clan, and belong together.
What was your favourite scene to write?
I have so many! They sound like a string of episodes from Friends – The One with the Remote-Controlled Rats; The One with the Car Chase; The One with the Kiss That Went Wrong. On a more serious note, in The Things We Did for Love, there is a very tender scene in which a character re-creates a pre-war tea-party. And a very dramatic, heart-breaking scene at the end which I would love to see on film.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?
There’s a bit of me in all my characters and I believe that everything I write comes from something I have experienced, either in real life or through books or film or hearing other people’s stories. But these are all springboards for the imagination.
What would you like your reader to take from the newest addition to the Bluebell series, All About Pumpkin?
The same as in all the Bluebell books – that families come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s nothing more important than standing up for the people you love.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters you fall in love with and a cracking plot.
We would love to know a little bit more about you! Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Natasha Farrant?
I am at my absolute happiest walking on the shoreline of a beach.
I HATE getting wet in the rain.
I secretly wish I had been a showjumper.
I can eat an entire packet of Jelly Babies in one go.
When I was little, I used to tear the corners off book pages and eat them!
*recoils in horror!*
Which of your characters would you most like to spend the day with?
Bluebell’s little sister, Jas. We’d tear about on horseback together for hours, and then read poetry to each other.
Growing up who inspired you into writing? Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?
Writers like Enid Blyton and CS Lewis. Don’t laugh. I know they’re not often mentioned in the same sentence, but they both created worlds in which I lost myself completely as a child. That is what I want to do for my readers when I tell a story.
Are there any recent works or authors that you admire or books you wish you had written?
I admire a lot of writers, but you can only write your own books, and it’s pointless wishing you were someone else.
What are you currently reading?
My other job is a literary scout, which means I work for overseas publishers who are looking for books to translate from English, so I am currently working my way through a pile of unpublished manuscripts.
What is your favourite book of 2015 so far?
Yikes! Honestly? This summer I read a biography of Marie-Antoinette, written in the 1930s by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, and I couldn’t put it down.
When starting a new book or idea what does your writing process look like?
Starting a new book is the best!
Step 1 involves lots of drifting about, talking to myself and daydreaming. I write all my first drafts longhand, so Step 2 involves buying a notebook and some Pilot pens and stroking them for a while. Step 3, and I spend a long time thinking up a title, which I write down beautifully. Step 4 is when it all gets messy – when I actually start to write!
Do you do many school events? What type of topics do you discuss with the children?
I don’t do as many as I would like, because I just don’t have time. When I do, because of the nature of the books I write, my events tend to be very personal. We talk about family a lot, and share funny stories, but also sad ones. At one event I did, a lot of us were in tears… Luckily, we went straight into doing a writing workshop together afterwards, and those always tend to be quite raucous.
Have libraries played any part in your life or your children’s lives?
I fell in love with my husband in a library! We were at university together, and used to spend an awful lot of time pretending to work in our college library, secretly eyeing each other up…
Seriously though – yes, my children have been really blessed in their contact with passionate and intelligent school librarians whom they will remember all their lives. Libraries are a vital part of any learning institution, and whenever I hear of another one closing, it makes me furious and sad.
Are there any exciting plans for the rest of 2015 or 2016?
I’m finishing edits on the fourth Bluebell Gadsby novel right now, and then I have to edit my next “historical” project, LYDIA – the story of the youngest and naughtiest sister from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Those both come out in 2016, when I will also be working on my first stand-alone middle-grade novel.
And finally…are you excited about the YA Shot?
I get to talk about YA historical fiction for an hour with three amazing writers – of course I’m excited! It’s going to be great.
Thank you so so much for answering so many questions Natasha! It’s be so great having you on Tales!
Also check out this fab guest post from Natasha – Guest Post – Why Is London Such A Rich Source Of Inspiration To Writers?
About Natasha Farrant
Natasha Farrant has worked in children’s publishing for almost twenty years, running her own literary scouting agency for the past ten. She is the author of the Carnegie-longlisted and Branford Boase-shortlisted YA historical novel The Things We Did For Love, as well as two successful adult novels. Natasha was shortlisted for the Queen of Teen Award 2014, and the second Bluebell Gadbsy book, Flora in Love, is longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Prize. She lives in London with her husband and daughters.
You can find out more about Natasha on her website here
Or why not follow Natasha on twitter using @NatashaFarrant1
A huge thank you to Natasha for an absolutely a brilliant Q&A and to the lovely Alexia Casale for not only pairing me with Natasha, but for organising the brilliant YA Shot!
*hugs to you both*
Have you read any of Natasha’s books? What did you think? Do you have any fab library stories? Will you be attending YA Shot? Do let me know! Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !